- Category: Bobby Udoh
- Published on Friday, 06 May 2011 08:05
- Written by Bobby Udoh
- Hits: 861
As we all seem focused on the successful conduct of our general elections, or for some the conclusion of the elections, there is a dangerous trend that seems not to have abated and has been with us since our independence. This trend is called disturbances and they come in religious, political and economic forms. In underdeveloped countries, disturbances are expected but in the case of Nigeria, the frequency is a deep concern.
We’ve all seen the federal and state governments attempt to restore normalcy and most efforts have failed because of the half-hearted and insincere measures. There are so many articles and news reports that have sufficiently addressed the numerous causes of these disturbances and what government have done and could have done. So, this article will focus on what we the citizens can do to help prevent future disturbances and to alleviate the sufferings of the victims. The gravity of this issue requires that we do not rely on the efforts of government alone.
If we say this is not our role but that of government to ensure the security of her people, we are not wrong. But if government has failed to stem the tide and we are the usual victims, we must rise up to do something, at least for our sakes and that of our communities. Besides, no developed country or countries seeking development have left the role of communal peace solely in the hands of government.
So, what can we Nigerians do?
Effective Communication: One of the main reason why violent disturbances occurs is due to the information disseminated. Whether it is the recent postelection riots in the North, the pre-election political violence in places like Akwa Ibom State or ethnic violence in places like Jos, it would be observed that the wrong information (usually with some high level of exaggeration) instigated the violent activities.
It was rumoured that Youth Corpers were part of the PDP rigging machine in the North and that led to violence with a religious taste, as most Northern based corpers are from the Christian South and several of them were attacked and killed. In Akwa Ibom State, it was rumoured that the ACN candidate had been attacked and killed in the senatorial zone of his rival & incumbent PDP Governor and that led to mayhem in the state capital in Uyo. In 1991, there was a SAP protest that went violent when a fake Ebony publication alleged that Gen. Babangida (then military President) had billions of dollars stashed in foreign bank accounts.
These are just a few examples of how the wrong information, which usually spreads like wildfire, leads to serious disturbances. The solution would then lie in effective communication.
Government officials, security agencies and most importantly, the general public must recognise and be trained on how to effectively communicate to the people to avert violence riots. The role requires you and I mainly because in a time of a crisis the government officials and security agencies are usually not trusted and seen as the enemy.
There is an urgent need to proactively communicate messages that promote peace and counteract negative messages. This has to be disseminated by individuals, cultural & religious organisations. We can use channels like radio, TV, door-to-door public campaigns, social media (SMS, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), leaflets, rallies, sermons in places of worship and many other useful channels.
Again, it has to be said that the main work lies with people. Just as several individuals came together to form groups to mobilise votes for their candidates, we can come together into groups to undertake campaigns in the North to effectively communicate peace. This kind of activity by ‘neutrals’ (not politicians, government officials or security agencies) will achieve more results that the efforts of government & the security agencies
Effective communication is a key tool both to prevent disturbances and to help restore normalcy when disturbances has occurred.
Rehabilitation & Restoration: One of the key reasons why these disturbances reoccur is due to the fact that the victims of the previous disturbances had not been properly cared for (if they were cared for at all). Victims are left to pay for their medical bills, rebuild their homes, bury their death, re-launch their means of livelihood (in cases where they have not lost this permanently) and mend their emotional pain all by themselves.
In cases where government & emergency agencies (like Red Cross & NEMA) give support, it is usually when the disturbance is in the news and once it’s no longer the hot news, the victims are abandoned to fend for themselves. Of course the emergency agencies have too much work but less resources and manpower.
I believe a key element in nation-building is the mass involvement of the people in support of victims of a crisis. The main activity is in the rehabilitation & restoration of the lives of the victim. This involves an enormous amount of work and can carry on for a long time.
We need to see more Nigerians come together in groups to assist people rebuilt their damaged homes, schools and other communal facilities. We can also provide financial support to pay medical bills and help the restart of their commercial activities.
This is a clarion call to our religious organisations to play an active role in this regard and they are well suited to help the healing for the deep emotional pain of the victims. Their involvement can be extended to the perpetuators of the violence, helping them to submit themselves to the authorities and helping to rehabilitate their thought process. Religious organisations in Nigeria can learn from the worldwide recognised emergency activities of Salvation Army International.
We can accelerate the restoration of peace in an area of disturbance to the point that normalcy returns and the impact of the violence are almost eliminated. But it would require our collective efforts and this group expression of compassion will sent a message to the victims that they are not alone and to the perpetuators, that there are people who are interested in seeing peace in the area.
Community Development: Besides the expected provision of basic infrastructure by the government to communities, we the general populace can participate in community development efforts that will enable peace in a community. Community development activities can be used to proactively encourage peace in a community and to restore the peace when a disturbance has occurred.
When strategically implemented, it can assist in integrating the various groups in a community so that it is achieves the purpose of community development and community integration. Both of these will help prevent disturbances and where it doesn’t, it would provide the platform for rehabilitation and restoration of peace.
I do find it interesting that many Nigerian graduates during their NYSC days had a day in the week they all got involved in community development projects (I was involved in adult education teaching of soldiers wives at the Zamani Lekwot Cantonment in Port Harcourt) but when we finished the one year programme, we no longer engaged in community development efforts (or CD as we called it). This is so sad and it is just another reflection of the fact that we seek for government to do everything. Government can’t do everything even if they try, after all developed nations, community development efforts are a key way those nations were built and are presently sustained.
Peace Rallies: One of the key ways to send a message to perpetuators of disturbances that we will not allow them distort the peace of a community; to the government to ensure that the culprits are brought to justice; and to the victims that we care about them and will stand with them through the healing & rebuilding phase, is by holding peace rallies in places where the disturbance occurred (where possible).
To ensure the purpose of the rallies is not diluted, it advisable for the rally to have a non-partisan look. This means, we should not only organise these rallies but also seek to involve people from various groups (religious, ethnic, traditional, political, etc.).
When these rallies are well planned and well executed, it will draw a large turnout. For those who are not participating by providing financial support or personal involvement, their attendance of a peace rally can help to draw compassion from them which will result in their commitment to the cause.
I am sure we can come up with many more things we can do. The point is, every Nigerian that is concerned about the rampant disturbances in our nations, should participate by joining or forming an emergency support group and/or community peace group. Whilst the emergency support group would be reactionary by providing one on one support to victims, the community peace group would be proactive by effectively disseminating information and implementing actions which will promote & sustain peace. We can participate in groups working in our area of residence or in our villages and also in groups working in another region of the country.
Also, we can participate by providing financial support to emergency agencies such as Red Cross on regular basis. This will enable these agencies to be properly equipped to response to the aftermath of disturbances promptly & adequately.
To prevent a disturbance from occurring, money and people involvement is required. Also, to deal with the aftermath of a disturbance, money and people involvement is required. Most times, people involvement is usually needed most because people are usually quick to make donations to a tragic cause but the work normally requires a high number of people directly involved to make desired impact.
Therefore, to we build and sustain the development of our nation, we must commit to providing financial support and becoming personally involved in the process that prevents disturbances and deals with the impact when it occurs.
Bobby Udoh is a nation-building evangelist, passionate blogger, impact public speaker, trainer and change agent. Read more articles on his weekly blog – http://nationarise.wordpress.com/